Tuesday, December 7, 2010

College Radio On The Brink

For many years, college radio has been the beacon of hope shining brightly across the wasteland that is commercial radio. As radio has become more and more homogenized thanks to group ownership and consultant-led playlists (see my past posts entitled Why Traditional Radio Is No Longer A Factor and Online Radio's Takeover), the only place for indie acts to break has been the local college radio station.

But now college radio sadly faces extinction as more and more colleges either close them down or sell them off. This is due to a number of reasons:

1) Fewer on-campus listeners. Students just don't listen to radio anymore, opting to discover their music online. Ironically, most of a college radio's listenership is off-campus. That being said, the college broadcast courses will remain in place as university radio stations move to the Web.

2) Budgetary shortfalls. Thanks to the recession, college administrators everywhere are faced with the prospect of making cuts, and frequently the first item to get the axe is the radio station, especially if it can be sold off.

Realistically though, college radio had been infiltrated by big business more than a decade ago after record labels discovered that it was the last bastion of open playlists. That being said, at least the consultants (the reason for crappy radio, in my opinion) have been kept out of it, hence the continuing local flavor that each remaining station maintains.

Just like the music business, radio isn't what it once was and probably never will be again. In the end, it probably won't matter much if college radio ceases to exist. It's a new age, so the sooner we let the new wave of communications wash over us, the better.

Check out a great article on college radio from a recent New York Times.

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